Everywhere I went I saw it. I knew it wasn’t the same old one but it felt like it was.
Today I almost fell over. When I got home from school, the white van was on my street, parked two houses down. I guess I should say a white van cause I didn’t really know. Still, in my heart a hearts I did.
Was he here for me? Rhonda Schroeder lived two houses down. Maybe he was here for her. Should I warn her? What would I say? No one knew what had happened, and the one person I told, Ma, didn’t believe me.
She said, “You’re a filthy girl, Bernice. Stuff like that don’t happen here. You read too much. Get them books outta this house. God knows what’s in em.”
My books started flying off the shelves as Ma grabbed one after another throwin them any which way. Then one hit an ugly vase she’d won at last summer’s carnival and crashed to the floor.
“Now look what ya made me do. That was the only thing I ever won in my life.”
“I’m sorry, Ma.”
“Sorry? What good does sorry do me?”
She slapped me across the face and I stumbled backward. I wanted to scream out that her boyfriend had made fun of it and she only kept it there so he could put his peanut shells in it, which were now all over the floor.
“Clean this shit up, Bernice. Do it now. And get them books outta here.”
So there wasn’t no point in tellin Ma about the van bein on our street. She’d give me a fat lip and that was all.
I probably coulda told Miss Curran, but that was kinda risky. If I told her she’d sure have to tell the Principal or the police. Then it woulda got out to everybody. Maybe even in the local paper under Police Blotter.
Miss Curran was a nice lady. She always looked so clean. She wore nice clothes, nothin fancy but clean and sunny. And she didn’t use whole pots of make-up like Ma did.
I guess Ma didn’t know how awful she looked with that red red lipstick, and dark mascara which when she came home from a night out with Dwayne or even with her girlfriends looked like she had two black eyes. Except I knew what real black eyes looked like.
So it wouldn’t do no good to tell Miss Curran and she was about the only one I could imagine tellin.
Now that it was six weeks, three days and nine hours since it happened I didn’t need to tell anyone and no one would believe me anyhow. But it was with me all the time and a damn white van was everywhere. Now it was on my block. I didn’t know what that meant. Was it there for Rhonda? Or maybe it was for Melissa farther down our block. It coulda been there for any number a girls.
I wondered if I was supposed to go warn em. Is that what someone like me does? One of em was gonna ask me how I knew? Then what? How could I tell em?
“Oh, Bernice,” Rhonda would say. “Yer always makin stuff up. You just wanna be the center of attention.”
That was the last thing I wanted to be. So I didn’t know what to do. Anyway, why should I stick out my neck? Those girls didn’t like me. They called me Buggy Bernice. They said I had bugs in my brain cause a the things I said.
I didn’t know what made them say that, what things they meant and I wasn’t going to ask them. But if I said anything about the white van they’d say I was just being Buggy Bernice.
It seemed like I couldn’t do nothin to help them girls. I would let the chips fall where they may, as Miss Curran was always sayin.
I took a coke outta the fridge and went back to the window. I didn’t really expect the van to be gone but I still got a ping in my stomach when I saw it. Like it was new. Like it was happening all over again.
And what if it did? Which girl would it be?
Somebody might say there are thousands a white vans. But I knew this was the one. I know I said I didn’t but the real White Van had a black circle like thing above the 7 on the license plate. Not on the plate. On the van. This one had that. All the other white vans I’d seen didn’t have it.
Even if those girls didn’t like me and called me names I thought it was my job, my duty to do somethin about it.
I left my coke on the windowsill and went into the kitchen drawer which had the knives. I took a big one and put it up the sleeve of my jacket and held the handle in the curve of my hand. It felt real good, like it belonged there. I opened the front door, took the four front steps real slow and started down the street toward the van.
I won’t pretend I wasn’t scared cause I was. I could feel my legs shakin, knees bangin against each other. But I wasn’t gonna let scared turn me back home. It felt like sixty million hours til I got up to the passenger door. I could see him in there. Just sittin. Thinkin about his choice. It was now or never. I knocked on the door.
When he saw me he had a funny look on his face. He powered down the window.
“Watcha want, Bernice?”
“Let me in. I need to talk to ya.”
“You alone?” He looked in his mirrors.
He leaned over and opened the door.
I stepped up, makin sure the knife was safe in my hand.
Bio: Sandra has published 19 novels. Now most of them are on Amazon as eBooks. She wrote under the name of Jack Early for 3 of them and was nominated for an Edgar and won a Shamus. You can find her at her blog – sandrascoppettone.blogspot.com